Some protesters wanted Ukraine to have a European orientation rather than a Russian one. Others felt that the government was corrupt and should thus be replaced. These kinds of demonstrations occur in many countries. Sometimes they’re successful; sometimes they’re not. In most cases, the outcome matters only to the country’s citizens or to the citizens of neighbouring states. But Ukraine is exceptional because it is enormously important. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has had to pursue a delicate balance between the promises of a liberal, wealthy and somewhat aloof Europe and the fact that its very existence and independence can be a source of strategic vulnerability for Russia.

Ukraine is central to Russia’s defensibility and the home to two critical ports, Odessa and Sevastopol. An Ukrainian-EU integration represented a potentially mortal threat to Russian national security. Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it abundantly clear that he regarded Ukraine as essential to Russian security, alleging that the nongovernmenta lorganizations that were fomenting unrest there were fronts for the U.S. State Department, the CIA and MI6. Whether the charges were true or not, Putin believed the course in which Ukraine was headed would be disastrous for Russia, and so he used economic pressure and state intelligence services to prevent Ukraine from taking that course.

Notably, Putin’s strategy toward the Russian periphery differs from those of his Soviet and czarist predecessors, who took direct responsibility for the various territories subordinate to them. Putin considers this a flawed strategy. It drained Moscow’s resources, even as the government could not hold the territories together. Putin’s strategy toward Ukraine, and indeed most of the former Soviet Union, entails less direct influence. He is not interested in governing Ukraine. He is not even all that interested in its foreign relationships. His goal is to have negative control, to prevent Ukraine from doing the things Russia doesn’t want it to do. Ukraine can be sovereign except in matters of fundamental importance to Russia.

As far as Russia was concerned, the Ukrainian regime is free to be as liberal and democratic as it wants to be. But even the idea of further EU integration was a clear provocation. It was the actions of the European Union and the Germans — supporting opponents of Yanukovich openly, apart from interfering in the internal affairs of another country — that were detrimental to Russian national interests.  Ukraine is not quite as strategically significant to Europe as it is to Russia. Europe never wanted to add Ukraine to its ranks; it merely wanted to open the door to the possibility.

The European Union is in shambles. Given the horrific economic problems of Southern Europe, the idea of adding a country as weak and disorganized as Ukraine to the bloc is preposterous. The European Union has a cultural imperative among its elite toward expansion, an imperative that is hard to change, and so an invitation went out with no serious intentions behind it. The Germans are playing a complex game. They understood that Ukrainian membership in the European Union was unlikely to happen any time soon. They also had important dealings with Russia, with which they had mutual energy and investment interests. It was odd that Berlin would support the demonstrators so publicly.

The Russians have remained relatively calm — and quiet — throughout Ukraine’s protests. They understood that their power in Ukraine rested on more than simply one man or his party, so they allowed the crisis to stew. Given Russia’s current strategy in Ukraine, the Russians didn’t need to act, at least not publicly. Any government in Ukraine would face the same constraints as Yanukovich: little real hope of EU inclusion, a dependence on Moscow for energy and an integrated economy with Russia. Certainly, the Russians didn’t want a confrontation just before Sochi. The Russians also knew that the more tightly pro-Western forces controlled Kiev, the more fractious Ukraine could become.

In general, eastern Ukraine is oriented toward Russia: Its residents speak Russian, are Russian Orthodox and are loyal to the Moscow Patriarchy. Western Ukraine is oriented toward Europe; its residents are Catholic or are loyal to the Kiev Patriarchy. These generalities however belie a much more complex situation. There are Moscow Orthodox members and Russian speakers in the west and Catholics and Kiev Orthodox in the east. Nevertheless, the tension between the regions is real, and heavy pro-EU pressure could split the country. The bloc could find itself operating in chaos, but then the European Union did not have the wherewithal to operate meaningfully in Ukraine in the first place.

The pro-EU government would encounter conflict and paralysis. For the time being that would suit the Russians, as unlikely as such a scenario might be.Russian behaviour in the Snowden affair and in Syria, has angered Washington and opened the possibility that the United States might be happy to create some problems for Moscow.  The U.S. government may not be supporting nongovernmental organizations as much as its counterparts in Europe are, but it is still involved somewhat. In fact, Washington may even have enjoyed putting Russia on the defensive after having been put on the defensive by Russia in recent months.

Source: Stratfor Global Intelligence



Every so often the government gets it right on abortion. While the federal government and most states are fully prepared to push unlimited abortion on demand paid for at taxpayer expenses without any limits whatsoever, some governments still understand that human rights begin when human life begins- at conception, before birth. Such is the case with the state government of North Dakota. The North Dakota Supreme Court heard oral arguments over a 2011 abortion law that was ruled unconstitutional by a district court judge earlier this year. Here’s how the rest played out:

Lawyers for the state, arguing in favour of the law which banned one of two drugs used in nonsurgical abortions, said the case must be interpreted by the intent of those who drafted the North Dakota Constitution. There was no right to an abortion in the state prior to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, said the state solicitor general. The law’s opponents argued that it would illegally restrict abortion rights. They countered that the state constitution is an evolving, not static, document and that the U.S.Constitution overrides the attempt at restricting the practice. House Bill 1297 required abortion-inducing drugs to only be provided by a licensed physician in their presence.

Under the law a physician providing the drugs also would have to enter into a contract with another physician who would respond to any medical emergency stemming from use of the drugs. East Central District Judge Wickham Corwin signalled his intent in April to rule against the state and in favour of the state’s lone abortion clinic following a trial in Fargo. In July Corwin released his decision striking down the law. Solicitor General Doug Bahr, arguing for the state, said that in making its decision “The district court completely ignored the law.” Bahr said in North Dakota abortion restrictions date back to the 1870s and the law must be interpreted based on the intentof those who drafted the constitution in 1889.

“There is no constitutional right to an abortion in North Dakota,” Bahr said. This held true until the federal Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized the practice in the U.S. Justice Carol Kapsner asked Bahr whether or not the court should ignore Article I, Section 23 of the state constitution. It says the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Bahr argued that while the Supremacy Clause of the federal Constitution says a state can’t apply its laws to deny a person federal rights a state court doesn’t have to interpret its state constitution to protect the same rights in the federal Constitution. Bahr said opponents’ had failed to prove that the state had ever provided the right to an abortion. 

Source: LifeSite News



The Prince of Wales has added his voice to those calling for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. After a visit to the London cathedral of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Prince Charles said he was “deeply troubled” by the “growing difficulties” faced by Christians in the region.” We cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants,” he said. Noting Christianity’s roots in the region, the Prince observed that today the Middle East and North Africa have the lowest concentration of Christians in the world – just 4% – and that this has “dropped dramatically over the last century and is falling still further”.

He said the effect of this was that “we all lose something irreplaceably precious when such a rich tradition begins to disappear”. Echoing the recent words of the Archbishop of Baghdad, the Prince added that the decline of Christians in the region represents a “major blow to peace, as Christians often acted as bridge-builders between other communities”. He continued “I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding but we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed through intimidation, and organised persecution of Christian communities in the Middle East by those with a vested interest in doing so,” he said.

David Yakoub, from the once Christian-dominated Syrian town of Sadad, pleaded with the Prince to “do something”. Prince Charles also spoke to Huda Nassar, Middle East director for the Awareness Foundation. “Prince Charles said what was going on in Syria was heart-breaking and that he’s praying for peace,” Huda said.  Huda’s brother, Nadim Nassar, a Syrian Anglican priest, handed the U.K Prime Minister a petition signed by over 300,000 people from 99 countries, on behalf of Syria’s Christians. The petition, co-ordinated by Open Doors International, was one of several submitted around the world including to the U.N. Secretary-General and the five Permanent Members of the Security Council.

Source: World Watch Monitor



Spain’s government has approved draft legislation that would only allow abortions in a narrow range of medical and legal circumstances, reversing a more liberal policy it inherited from the previous government.  The government wants to scrap a 2010 law, adopted under a Socialist government, that gives women unimpeded access to abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The new law would only allow women to terminate their pregnancies in cases of rape or serious danger to the mother’s physical or mental health. Malformation of the foetus would no longer be a reason to abort.

Another part of the proposed law would prevent girls aged 16 or 17 years from getting an abortion without their parents’ consent. “Life that has been conceived and has not been born incarnates a fundamental value,” Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party is expected to pass the law with its absolute majority in parliament. The government’s plans have sparked the wrath of women’s rights advocates and of the Socialist opposition, which pledged to use all available means to block the measure. The draft law would undermine women’s freedom of decision and “add to their suffering without any justification,” Socialist representative Elena Valenciano said.

Source: AAP



International Mission Board president Tom Elliff made his first visit to Cuba this month. He reported that new churches are flourishing despite the persecution Christians have endured in the past. So much so, says Elliff, that his experience there “has changed my life. I will not view the Christian faith the same. ever again.” The 1959 revolution in Cuba moved it from a dictatorship to socialism. Its economy faltered. Churches were closed and pastors were imprisoned. It looked like everything was over. Indeed,  by1965, the majority of pastors were imprisoned and a large number of young church leaders were put in re-education camps. Yet, despite all this, churches remained opened under lay leadership.

In 1991 the Cuban constitution was changed, making discrimination based on religious belief unlawful. Still wary of churches being displayed prominently in their society, government officials only allowed new churches to be held primarily in homes. It was then that churches woke up. The Church in Cuba is growing so much, Elliff says, “I found it surprising to find some of the greatest expressions of faith within 100 miles of the United States. The thing that astonished me is how much they have to teach us, not how much we have to teach them.” “We can benefit from the example of their undying faith and they can benefit from our resources,” he concludes.

Source: Intercessors for America



Mayor Tom Hayden has publicly designated 2014 as the “Year of the Bible”. Citizens are being encouraged to read the Bible – a move that has brought the mayor much praise, but also condemnation from secularists. Hayden, however, notes that the declaration was not something that was voted on and cannot be considered “government action” because it is not a law. Said Hayden: “I was nervous about doing this and I’ve been thinking about it for two years and procrastinated about it for as long as I possibly could.” To facilitate the “Year of the Bible” declaration, a local church, Calvary Chapel Flower Mound, set up a website to help guide those residents who want to participate through the Bible in a year. 

A caption on the website reads: “We are so excited to support this project with the belief that God is going to work through it and bless our community with the hope that is contained in the Scriptures. May we be in constant prayer for one another and unite around each other as residents in love, knowing that in the end our love for our neighbour is at the heart of God.” The mayor is stunned by the outpouring of support he’s received from around the nation for his move, but so far is shunning the media spotlight. “I didn’t do this for notoriety,” he said. “I thought it would be a nice thing for the town. The story is starting to be about Tom Hayden and not about the Bible.  That was not my intention.”

Source: Intercessors for America



Reports are being received from Nigeria of a ‘mass exodus’ of a mainly Christian ethnic group. Stefanos Foundation reported that the Attakar people are moving en masse after security forces told them they could not guarantee their safety. The Attakar live in the border areas straddling Kaduna and Plateau states in central Nigeria and have suffered intense persecution at the hands of Fulani militants. Stefanos is calling on the Government to intervene in a situation which it fears might lead to ‘genocide’.

Please pray for this very serious situation in Nigeria:

*  Ask God to intervene to protect the Attakar people from further attack. Pray that they will seek His guidance and draw their strength from the Lord, the giver of life.

*  Pray for wisdom for those in authority seeking a solution to this situation.

*  Continue to cry out to God for an end to the bloodshed in Nigeria and a breakthrough in the fight against extremism and religious persecution.

Source: Morning Star News